How To Set Up Custom Keyboard Shortcuts for Scrubbing Controls in After Effects?

After Effects offers a robust set of tools for animation and motion design. But for efficient editing and playback, navigating the timeline smoothly is crucial. Here's where custom keyboard shortcuts for scrubbing controls become game-changers. By tailoring these shortcuts to your workflow, you can significantly boost your editing speed and precision.

This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge to set up custom scrubbing shortcuts in After Effects, allowing you to refine your editing process.

Understanding Scrubbing Controls

Scrubbing refers to the action of manually moving the current time indicator (CTI) across the timeline. After Effects provides various ways to scrub the timeline:

  • Drag the CTI: This is the most basic method, but it can be slow and imprecise for frame-by-frame adjustments.
  • Arrow Keys: Use the left and right arrow keys to nudge the CTI one frame at a time.
  • J/K Keys: These keys move the CTI by 5 frames in their respective directions (J = backward, K = forward).
  • Mouse Wheel: Scrolling the mouse wheel zooms in and out of the timeline, allowing for faster scrubbing over larger sections.

While these default options offer some control, customizing keyboard shortcuts lets you leverage specific keys for scrubbing in the way that best suits your editing style.

Accessing the Keyboard Shortcuts Menu

To create custom shortcuts, navigate to the Edit menu and select "Keyboard Shortcuts" (or press Option + (Mac) or Ctrl + (Windows) ). This opens the Keyboard Shortcuts Editor window.

Locating Scrubbing Controls

The Keyboard Shortcuts Editor presents a vast list of commands and their assigned shortcuts. Scrubbing controls are found under different categories depending on the After Effects version you're using. Here's a general guideline:

  • After Effects CC 2015 and earlier: Look for commands under "Transport" or "Timeline." These might include "Jog Backward One Frame," "Jog Forward One Frame," "Fine Scrub Backward," and "Fine Scrub Forward."
  • After Effects CC 2017 and later: Scrubbing controls are often grouped under the "Timeline Panel" category. You'll find options like "Scrub Left (One Frame at a Time)" and "Scrub Right (One Frame at a Time)" alongside "Scrub Left (Fine)" and "Scrub Right (Fine)."

Tip: Use the search bar at the top of the window to quickly locate specific scrubbing commands.

Assigning Custom Shortcuts

Once you've identified the desired scrubbing control, follow these steps:

  1. Click the text box next to the command name. This clears any existing shortcut.
  2. Press the key combination you want to assign as the new shortcut. Make sure it's a comfortable combination you won't accidentally trigger while typing.
  3. Click the "Assign" button.

Important Considerations:

  • Avoid using shortcuts already assigned to other functions in After Effects. This can lead to conflicts and unexpected behavior.
  • Keep your shortcuts consistent and intuitive. For example, use similar key combinations for scrubbing in the same direction (left/right) but with different speeds (fine/coarse).

Example: You can assign Shift + Left Arrow for "Scrub Left (One Frame at a Time)" and Shift + Right Arrow for "Scrub Right (One Frame at a Time)" for a more comfortable and directional scrubbing experience.

Using Modifier Keys:

  • Shift: Often used for slower, more precise scrubbing (one frame at a time).
  • Option/Alt: Can be used for faster scrubbing speeds (multiple frames at a time).
  • Control/Command: Less common for scrubbing but can be used for creating unique shortcut combinations.

Testing Your Shortcuts:

Once you've assigned your custom shortcuts, click "OK" to close the Keyboard Shortcuts Editor. Return to your After Effects project and test your newly created shortcuts. Ensure they work as intended and provide the scrubbing behavior you desire.

Advanced Customization Tips

Here are some additional ideas for optimizing your scrubbing experience:

  • Scrubbing by Composition Duration: Assign a shortcut to the command "Scrub to In Point" and another to "Scrub to Out Point." This allows you to quickly jump to the beginning or end of your composition.
  • Multiple Scrubbing Speeds: Create shortcuts for different scrubbing speeds based on your needs. For example, use Option + Left Arrow for scrubbing 5 frames backward and Option + Shift + Left Arrow for scrubbing backward one frame at a time.
  • Third-Party Keyboard Shortcuts: Explore tools and scripts from third-party developers that offer even more granular control over scrubbing behavior and customization options.


By customizing keyboard shortcuts for scrubbing controls in After Effects, you can significantly enhance your editing workflow.

Remember: The key to maximizing your scrubbing workflow lies in experimentation and finding the combination of shortcuts and techniques that best suit your editing style and project requirements. By customizing your scrubbing experience, you can unlock a new level of efficiency and precision in After Effects.

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